Fishing Report - Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario
Santa Claus has come early for anglers fishing in Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba. Despite heavy snow just as ice was forming on the lakes - Northwestern Ontario has already received more snow than all of last winter - ice conditions are now almost perfect. The slush that was originally prevalent on many of the small and medium size lakes has risen to the top and frozen and the big waters are setting up nicely.
And the traditional hot "first ice bite" is well underway. Especially on Lac des Mille Lacs, only 70 miles west of Thunder Bay. Rapala Pro Staffer Davis Viehbeck reports there is already 12 to 16 inches of good ice on the lake and only an inch or two of snow, so travel by snowmachine and quad is a breeze. By this weekend, Davis suspects anglers will be driving in their trucks to the honey holes.
Archie Hoogsteen guides on Mille Lacs and offers ice fishing huts for rent.. Archie and three guests landed 22 walleyes in only two hours the other day. Like Davis, he reports that deadsticking live suckers is catching the most and biggest fish. Anglers can contact Archie via his website www.archiescharters.ca or by phone at 807-624-7096.
A little further west, in Sunset Country around Kenora, Lake of the Woods benefited from its size. The early season snow simply chilled the still open water. The big lake (and others like it in the region) have steadily improving ice conditions. Anglers are running around via snowmachines and quads but it is some vehicle access will be evident by Christmas weekend.
The walleye and perch are biting consistently well on area lakes and the crappie fishing has been superb. I was out the other day and landed four big slabs the first four times I dropped down a jig in the initial hole that I fished. You can't complain about action like that. And the crappies were smacking the daylights out of larger than normal size baits - the smallest Jigging Rap was my go-to bait for the day - reflective of the fact the fish haven't seen many lures for the past several months.
Perhaps the best fishing of the entire region, however, is on the Red River north of Winnipeg and around Selkirk. Good buddies and LUND Boat Pro Staffers, Roger Stearns and Todd Longley tell me there is already 14 - 16 inches of ice on Lake Winnipeg. The best walleye bite is happening in less than 14-feet of water and the 'eyes are relating to schools of small perch.
As a result perch coloured Chubby Darters and Northland Tackle Buckshot spoons have been the ticket. Ditto the new 1/4-ounce Live Target Golden Shiners. Roger was the pioneer in developing the technique of fishing lipless crankbaits on Lake Winnipeg and to watch him work his magic with the noisy rattling baits is a wonder to behold. The locals refer to it as "hawg calling" and a good sonar unit like the Humminbird Ice 55 which I find to be the Cadillac on ice is essential.
The best walleye fishing of all, however, appears to be in the Red River where some big greenbacks have been landed. Both Todd and Roger report that the current is still strong in the Red so don't drive your truck or car onto the ice. Instead, use a snowmachine, 4x4 quad, or walk.
The water in the Red is still murky, although it clears up some as you go further north toward the lake. Heavy 3/4- to 1-ounce Reelbait Flasher jigs tipped with minnow have caught plenty of walleye and sauger of late. Indeed, talking about sauger, they've been providing tons of excitement and action so this area of the river around Selkirk is an ideal place to bring the kids for tons of action. And the next bite could also be one of the huge greenback walleye for which the Red is justifiably famous.
By the way, the North American Ice Fishing Circuit (NAIFC) will be paying a visit to Lake Winnipeg on January 9th. The tournament is being held out of Balsan Bay, so if you're anywhere near the area, check it out. You'll see some of the best ice anglers in the world, including good buddy Tony Boshold, in action.
Todd, by the way, guides full time on the Red River and knows it like the back of his hand. He specializes in catching monster channel cats in the summer and on walleyes in the winter. If you haven't fished the area before, get in touch with him at . I consider the Red River and adjacent Lake Winnipeg to be the best winter walleye fishing in the world!
If this all sounds too good to be true, you're not going to believe I have saved the best for last, but that is exactly what I've done. My good buddy Jason Gauthier from Winnipeg is a man of many talents. Radio show host, professional auctioneer, hotelier, and the best fishing tournament Emcee in the business.
Anyone who has ever seen Jason up on stage knows what I mean! He emcees the annual Angler Young Angler (AYA) International Walleye Championship in Kenora, Ontario each year, in which I participate, and he is simply amazing. Believe me, if he can't you up and out of your seat cheering and stomping your feet, you better check your blood pressure quickly and get to a hospital because your heart has stopped beating!
But his talents don't stop there. Jason is also a superb angler and the nicest guy you could meet and he has been tearing up the rainbow and brown trout in the Parkland area of Manitoba near Riding Mountain National Park. Patterson Lake and Tokaryk Lake have been his two favourite lakes of late.
Jason reports there is a good 15 inches clear ice on the lakes now so access is easy. And he has been catching huge trout by fishing in water as shallow 2 feet deep to as much as 13 feet deep. Artificial bait only is the rule in Patterson Lake and a small jig tipped with a white grub has been Jason's top presentation.
In Tokaryk Lake, on the other hand, where frozen shiners are legal, Jason has been slaying big rainbows from 18 to 28 inches in length, and beautiful brown trout up to 24-inches in size.
As an added bonus, the water is so clear in these Parkland lakes, Jason recommends fishing from a dark portable shelter. That way you can watch as giant trout swim beneath your hole and attack your bait.
How good is the trout fishing in these lakes? They were selected to host the visiting anglers participating in the 2010 National Fly Fishing Championships last season. And as Jason says with his characteristic warm smile, "When the bite is on, hang on! These trout hit like freight trains."